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Pronunciation: klez-mêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Traditional Eastern European Jewish folk music. Click here for a sample. 2. A klezmer instrumentalist.

Notes: Today's word is a multifunctional lexical orphan, referring to klezmer music and musicians who play it, but it comes with no lexical relatives. We do have our choice of plural forms, the Hebrew klezmorim or English klezmers, when referring to the musicians.

In Play: Today's Good Word may refer to the music: "Morris Minor heard klezmer for the first time when a band of roaming klezmorim appeared at his cousin's wedding." It may also refer to the musicians playing it: "With his PhD in philosophy Morris could only find a job as a klezmer in a band that played Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a Yiddish reduction of Mishnaic Hebrew klei zemer "musical instruments". Klei is the plural compounding form of kêli "utensil, tool, instrument", pronounced kli in modern Hebrew. It is based on the root kll "to complete", found also in Aramaic kol "all". Zemer comes from the Hebrew root zmr "music", realized as zamar "to make music". In Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Berber) words only the consonants are stable. Vowels vary to distinguish grammatical categories (instrument, place, result) like prefixes and suffixes do in Indo-European languages.

Dr. Goodword,

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